True Inversions (performance)
Region: North America
Subject: Sexual/Gender Orientation
Medium: Performance Art
Artist: Kiss and Tell
Confronting Bodies: Ken Kowalski, Alberta Deputy Premier and others
Dates of Action: 14 November 1992
Location: Alberta, Canada
Description of Artwork: Much Sense: Erotics and Life was an exhibition at the Walter Phillips Gallery at the Banff Centre for the Arts. As part of the exhibition, the Vancouver-based performance troupe Kiss and Tell presented True Inversions, a performance work with lesbian themes and simulated woman-woman sex.
The Incident: A nationally syndicated column by Rick Bell in the Alberta "Report of 7" (December 1992) blasted the Banff Centre for spending tax dollars on the series. "Banff hosted the latest in subsidized 'alienation' and lesbian porn... As usual, the money for this free-admission spectacle came from the empty coffers of indebted governments." (Bell/Alberta Report). The article touched off a year long controversy on arts spending in Alberta. Alberta Deputy Premier Ken Kowalski fumed, "Every once in a while they do some of these things that are God-awful in my humble opinion. This is the third (controversial show) I've had to deal with, this abhorrent lesbian show." (Edmonton Sun)
Alberta Conservative government officials Dianne Mirosh (community development minister) and Stockwell Day (labor minister) joined the anti-arts funding fracas.
Statements by these officials in the national press mobilized the Alberta arts community in a show of support through protest rallies, letter writing campaigns, etc.
Results of Incident: Provincial funding forms were amended to include a paragraph that said funding could be pulled from any particular project that the government deemed inappropriate. Galleries in Alberta whose presentations came under attack during this controversy did not experience a cut in funding.
"It seems to me that because the arts community was so united and so angry and so public, the government did back off. It is always good to see that people actually do have some power in these processes."
(Persimmon Blackbridge of Kiss and Tell in an interview with Kerry Kilmartin/Artichoke)
Source: The Banff Centre for the Arts